“The truth will set you free.” (John 8:31 NIV)
We do not have to surrender to the fear-breathing monster that lives in Mom’s mind. With the Lord’s help, we can fight it. But before we fight it, we have to face it.
I come to my parents’ house almost every day now. And almost every day, I see the quality of their lives slip a little farther downhill. I feel myself sliding too, toward confusion and panic and smothering sadness.
Their days have changed dramatically. Mom, formerly a perfectionist in the area of housekeeping, sits for hours at the kitchen table or on the loveseat in the den, smoking cigarettes, staring at the television. Dad used to spend the daylight hours working, outside if possible, on the lawn or the house or his vegetable garden. Now he sits in the house watching Mom watch TV.
Even more distressing than their lack of activity is the drastic alteration in Mom’s appearance. She used to manicure her fingernails weekly; now they’re long, jagged, dirty. She wears the same clothes for days at a time. Her blouse is usually stained with food. And worse, much worse, is the way her clothes smell. Is she no longer aware of needing to go to the bathroom? Or is she just choosing not to go?
This morning while I pour my coffee, I’m shocked to hear Dad comment, with a distinct edge in his voice, that Mom takes a bath only when he insists, and sometimes not then.
“And when was the last time you washed your hair?” he asks her.
Marveling at Dad’s lack of tact, but happy he’s finally speaking up, I take my place at the table, between them as usual.
Mom doesn’t answer. Instead she reaches slowly toward the ashtray and picks up her cigarette. With her elbow planted on the table, she holds the unfiltered stub between index finger and thumb.
Then WHAP! Her other hand slams palm down on the table. Coffee sloshes out of my cup. The fire falls from the cigarette and lands on the tablecloth. Instinctively Dad reaches over and puts it out with his hand.
“Stop talking about my hair!” Mom shouts. “My hair is fine!”
As I mop up my spilled coffee, my almost bald father glares across the table at Mom, who is glaring back at him from beneath her oily gray-brown hair.
Today is the first time I’ve seen Mom as loud and aggressive as she was a couple of weeks ago in Colorado. But maybe she acts that way more often than I realize. I wonder yet again what happens when I’m not here.
I’ve asked Dad, but only in the most general terms: “How are things, Daddy?” His answer is always the same. “Fine. We’re doing fine.”
Now he rubs his palm, sighs, and turns back to the TV.
This isn’t “facing it.”
Something has to change.
Lord, please help me face the truth. Things aren’t ok. Mom and Dad aren’t fine. And I’m afraid—of what these changes might mean, what a doctor might say, what we might have to do to take care of Mom, what might happen next if we just keep pretending. So many might’s. But here is more truth: You are powerful—beyond all uncertainty, beyond all my fear. Beyond human knowledge and human strength. Thank You for shining your mighty light on the truth, Father. Help me believe that it will set us free.